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A New York state appeals court ruled that a gun manufacturer and distributor could be liable for someone's injuries despite the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
The federal statute generally shields firearm manufacturers and sellers from liability for harm caused by criminal use of their products, reports Reuters.
However, the appellate court unanimously reversed a 2011 ruling and said that shooting victim Daniel Williams could go ahead and sue gun manufacturer Beemiller and MKS Supply for his injuries.
Williams was shot in 2003 and he had brought a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor, and dealer of the semi-automatic pistol used to shoot him, reports Reuters. Williams claimed that Beemiller and MKS Supply violated federal law by knowingly supplying the guns to irresponsible dealers.
The defendants allegedly sold the guns to James Bostic, a man accused of running a trafficking scheme that funneled guns in the New York black market. Bostic is a convicted felon and is barred from purchasing guns, writes Reuters. However, Bostic allegedly traveled to Ohio, where a license is not necessary to buy guns, and purchased a large number of handguns, including the gun used to shoot Bostic.
Generally, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act prohibits civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition due to criminal acts by others. However, there are six exceptions from this general rule. One exception is for "knowing" violations that led to the harm claimed. Since Williams argued enough facts to show that the gun manufacturer and distributor knowingly violated the law which led to him getting shot, the court found that the federal law would not automatically bar his claim.
Defendants are still weighing whether to appeal the decision.
The New York appeals court's ruling gives Williams the right to sue. Now, the shooting victim still has to prove why Beemiller and MKS should be liable for his injuries.